We love this time of year. The air turns cooler, and the hayfields are cut one last time in preparation for winter, often feverishly because of the threat of rain. The days grow shorter, but there is still much work to do in the waning light of day. Tourism comes to a complete stop after Labor Day in Southern Virginia, so only the locals or those with nearby vacation houses come to see us. October is so quiet, we would probably close for the season if it wasn’t Virginia Wine Month.
So we make our own excitement. Last week was a harvest celebration by the owners of Hunting Creek Vineyards, Milt and Sandy MacPherson. They are great friends and great hosts — they know absolutely everybody in these parts. If you go out to dinner with them, expect nearly everyone in the room to stop to say hello. So when they throw a party, expect a big crowd.
Hunting Creek grows Merlot, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, and they recently planted Malbec. Their wines extremely well made — mostly red wines with full, intense flavors and strong tannins — very bold. Their single white — the Viognier, which they call Pure Luck — sells out quickly. They keep a brief portfolio, each wine bearing a provocative name: Temptation (100% Merlot); Indulgence (a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot); Decadence (Petit Verdot fermented with Viognier skins, with a small percentage of Viognier added); and Repentance (Cabernet Franc blended with a touch of cranberry; in 2009 it had 3% residual sugar).
Their first harvest, like ours, was in 2008, and each year they throw a Harvest Party that gets bigger and bigger each year. The party is usually the second Saturday in September which is the date, in years past, when we picked our red grapes in these parts. Our season started and ended early this year and the fruit had already been brought in, so the party went on without the hosts being quite as exhausted as usual. They held it in their newly constructed winery building which has not yet been outfitted with tanks and barrels.
If you come to see us, you have to see them — they’re just 15 miles away.
Critters, 1; Annefield, 0: OK Critters, You Win!
Our own harvest, incidentally, turned out to be a non-event. The bird netting wasn’t enough, and the critters got the upper hand and made off with what little fruit we expected this year (for those who did not know — we were hit with a devastating frost in April). We’re reinforcing the fence around the vineyard this winter and investing in state-of-the-art bird deterrence.
One futile effort involved fake falcon decoys from Australia that were deployed around the vineyard. We had three of them. The week they were put up, we suffered a violent storm that brought them all down and uprooted three trees along the driveway; luckily, they fell into the field so we could still get to the house. For good measure the gentleman who mows the vineyard came through before we had a chance to pick them up and chopped them to bits. The Fates definitely had it in for us this year. Still, there’s fruit to be had from other growers, and we’ve already purchased Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Still, our own (Non) Harvest Party scheduled for October 20 goes on; please note that reservations are required. For those of concerned about possible inclement weather — we will be under a big tent, so rest easy.